State of Utah v. Anthony Watkins

2001 UT App 96
Filed March 24, 2011

Watkins temporarily moved in with his niece, her husband, and their children. The husband’s daughter from a previous relationship (Child) regularly stayed at the house as well. Child testified that one night she woke to find Watkins in bed with her wetly kissing the side of her head and pinching and rubbing her buttocks. She also said that he spanked her. Watkins left after child had asked him twice to stop, but returned and gave her a $100 bill and told her not to tell anyone about the money. Child told her parents about the incident and Watkins was arrested.

Watkins appealed his conviction for aggravated sexual abuse of a child on the grounds that the trial court erred in denying his motion to dismiss because the State had failed to prove that he was in a position of special trust in relation to the victim. Sexual abuse of a child is normally a second degree felony, but can be increased to a first degree felony if an aggravating factor is present. Watkins was charged with the aggravated crime because he was an “adult cohabitant of [Child’s] parent” and therefore in a position of special trust to Child. At trial, the State defined “cohabitant” as someone who “resides or has resided in the same residence.” Watkins argued that he was not a “cohabitant” of Child’s parent because “residence” implies permanency and he was living in the house only temporarily. The Court held that the ordinary meaning of “residence” is the place where a person currently lives, without making any distinction between temporary and permanent living arrangements. There Court also rejected Watkins’ argument that the cohabitating parent must be Child’s custodial parent because many of the other relationships implying a position of special trust listed in the statute, such as babysitter, do not require regular contact between the abuser and the victim.

Watkins appealed his conviction on the basis that the State did not prove that he acted with the “intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.” The Court found that the jury had sufficient evidence to find that Watkins had the required intent because there was no other legitimate reason for him to be in Child’s bed kissing and fondling her.

Watkins moved for a new trial because of the discovery of some text messages implying that Child’s mother knew that Watkins had spanked Child and Child’s brother, with whom Child shared a bedroom. Watkins argued the texts supported a theory that his purpose for entering the children’s bedroom was to reprimand the children for disturbing him. The Court found the texts would not have changed the outcome of the trial because: (1) Watkins never advanced this theory at trial, (2) the texts did not prove that the mother lied on the stand, (3) Child testified that Watkins spanked her and thus the new evidence was cumulative, and (4) a different intent for entering the children’s room still did not provide a legitimate reason for Watkins’ activities in Child’s bed.

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